What’s the Difference Between an MSP and MSSP

Publication date: Apr 17, 2020

Last Published: Apr 23, 2020

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Read Time : 4 minutes

Small and medium-sized organizations don’t have it easy. Not only do they have to ensure continuous business functionality, but they must also protect their customers’, as well as their own, data against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. 

The threat of a data breach is so serious that the majority of executives at SMBs across the United States (58 percent) are more concerned about it than the possibility of a flood, fire, transit strike, or even physical break-in. 

Interested in strengthening their cybersecurity defenses but lacking the resources to do it themselves, most SMBs that decide to partner with a third-party company stumble upon two confusing acronyms: MSP and MSSP. Let’s take a closer look at them and explain their roles. 

What Is MSP?

An MSP, or Managed Service Provider, is an IT service provider that typically works with small to medium-sized organizations, managing their IT infrastructure and end-user systems, ensuring their availability and fixing usability and performance issues.  MSPs employ a variety of pricing models, including per device, per user, tiered pricing, or a la carte.  

The services most commonly offered by MSPs include Remote Management and Monitoring (RMM), data storage and backup, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), help desk support, and onsite technical assistance. 

Traditionally, MSPs focused on ensuring easy access to information systems and provided only a basic level of security because of their lack of knowledge and personnel. However, many organizations that understand the current cybersecurity landscape and the numerous challenges it creates are no longer satisfied with the bare minimum. In response, some MSPs have beefed up their cybersecurity offerings.

What Is MSSP? 

The acronym MSSP stands for Managed Security Service Provider, and, as the name suggests, it’s a type of IT service provider whose primary focus is cybersecurity. 

Similar to MSPs, MSSPs use several different pricing models to provide security services such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), dedicated security analysts, Security Operations Center (SOC), and Unified Threat Management (UTM), just to give a few examples. 

Together, these and other services protect organizations from data loss and downtime due to malware, phishing, insider attacks, and other cyber threats, ensuring that information systems can be accessed only by authorized employees and customers. 

Because of their specialized nature, MSSPs can provide a much higher level of security than MSPs and help organizations implement complex security procedures and institute appropriate practices. Most MSSPs offer 24/7 network monitoring and reporting to detect and respond to vulnerabilities across the entire infrastructure long before they can be exploited. 

msp vs mssp explained

The Convergence of MSPs with MSSPs

The truth is that SMBs need both MSPs and MSSPs to get the best possible IT service. With a capable MSP, an organization doesn’t have to worry about infrastructure and hardware issues, which is essential for enabling long-term growth and success. On the other hand, a reliable MSSP can detect cyber threats in a timely manner by going beyond simple protection and proactively tracking behavior anomalies.  

MSPs and MSSPs can coexist together in harmony to fill in all gaps. When a security analyst employed by the MSSP detects a security threat, he or she creates an incident alert and comes up with a remediation plan. This information is then sent to the MSP, whose job is to carry out the remediation. In other words, the MSSP uses its expertise in cybersecurity to make a plan, and the MSP executes it.

Working with an MSSP alongside an MSP means entrusting strategic IT decisions to experienced professionals who can guarantee the proper security and functioning of all systems. The extra cost of paying for additional IT service provider becomes negligible when compared with the average cost of a data breach, which has risen to $3.92 million, according to a report from IBM and the Ponemon Institute.

Which Is Right For Your Organization?

The emergence of Managed Security Service Providers reflects the growing need of organizations large and small to tackle increasingly complex cybersecurity challenges that Managed Service Providers alone might not always be able to solve. All organizations whose budget allows it should at least consider advanced security services offered by MSSPs and think about the numerous ways they can help them maintain an adequate cybersecurity posture. 

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